40°Clear

Ballston-Based Startup Adds a Physical Barrier to Cyber Attacks

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Ballston-based startup Fend is working to make infrastructure assets un-hackable.

“The goal is to protect infrastructure from cyber attacks,” said Fend’s founder Colin Dunn. “That’s everything from the electric supply to water systems. What worries me is hackers taking down our services.”

Dunn said he was frustrated looking at new technology being developed for infrastructure development that was turned down because of cybersecurity concerns.

Fend’s hardware is a device inserted into the data stream connecting industrial equipment (the asset) to cloud network stream. Information comes in from the asset, like a power plant or a truck, into one half of the device. That data is converted into a unidirectional beam of light fired into the second half of the device, which then sends the information into the network.

Because the information is physically transported in a one-way beam, there’s no opportunity to use the hackable network to access the asset. Dunn says Fend allows equipment operators to receive live updates on the assets without concern that the asset could be compromised.

According to Dunn, the technology adapts technology that has been used to defend nuclear power plans and the intelligence community but makes it easier to use and more price accessible for building owners or local governments.

Fend started in 2017 out of Smart City Works, a business accelerator in Reston, but has since moved to Techspace, a shared office space in Ballston. It was awarded a Department of Energy Small Business Innovation Research award earlier this year for the technology’s potential to help protect solar farms. According to the Department of Energy, the technology could prevent large-scale economic disruption.

The funding from the Department of Energy has allowed Dunn to bring on another full-time employee, Sang Lee, who is now the chief engineer for Fend, and move forward into a pilot phase. The first batch of 10 units are currently under construction in Charlottesville and will be ready in four to five weeks.

Dunn said the program is scheduled for six weeks of pilot testing as Dunn starts to work on developing clients. Currently, Dunn says the company has one outside investor, but Fend will be looking for more investors and clients as the program looks beyond the pilot into full-scale implementation.

0 Comments

Bluemont-Based Startup Looks to Connect Governments, Nonprofits in Developing Nations

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Joanne Sonenshine says she did the “typical rotation” after arriving in Washington as a development economist 16 years ago.

She started off working for the federal government, then moved to a lobbying firm before ending up at a large nonprofit, all while working on issues in developing countries. But no matter what hat she wore or organization she worked for, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t making as much of a difference as she might like.

“It became very clear that what was needed to make the most difference for some of these communities was someone to come in and be much more straightforward and clear about partnership building,” Sonenshine told ARLnow. “Bringing together nonprofits, governments, the private sector… and I thought a company could help fill that gap.”

So, on one long airplane ride, Sonenshine drew up a detailed methodology for how someone might convene all those various groups together around an issue like tackling poverty, or food insecurity. She showed it to a few friends and colleagues and got some positive feedback, so she quickly decided to “make the jump” and start a consulting firm of her own.

Sonenshine founded Connective Impact in 2014 in Bluemont, her home with her husband since moving to the area back in 2002. Though it started off as a one-woman operation, she says it’s since grown to include two full-time employees and a part-time researcher, and is currently funded entirely by herself and a small circle of “family and friends.”

She says the business now has “anywhere from three to 10 clients” at any given time, depending on the season, and they run the gamut from large corporations to renowned nonprofits to governments themselves. Past clients have included Nespresso, Oxfam and the United States Agency for International Development.

Her goal with all of her clients is to organize people around causes with “social, environmental and economic impact,” with a focus on developing nations.

For instance, if a large company is looking to reduce poverty in nations that help form the backbone of its “supply chain,” Sonenshine says Connective Impact would be able to step in. Her company could help the company connect with “local partners in communities” to achieve that goal, or even provide a connection to some of its competitors to understand how the industry might be worsening poverty in a country with its business practices.

“We can do the same thing on the nonprofit side,” Sonenshine said. “We can connect them with governments, local communities… just be much more specific about roles and responsibilities, about who should be working on what.”

Eventually, she hopes to expand her staff and begin developing workshops and seminars to offer independently of Connective Impact’s consulting work, to essentially export the work her company does elsewhere.

But no matter how much the company expands, she doesn’t plan on leaving Arlington anytime soon.

“We just love the school system and love working in Arlington,” Sonenshine said. “It’s always had such a great community feel.”

0 Comments

Rosslyn Security Startup LiveSafe Scores $11 Million in New Funding

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A Rosslyn-based security startup has pulled in $11 million in new funding.

LiveSafe announced the news last Wednesday (Sept. 26), noting that the new capital will help the company “further build out” some of its software offerings and expand its sales and marketing efforts.

The company was founded back in 2012 with a focus on campus security, in particular — co-founder Kristina Anderson is a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting — but the startup has since expanded its scope to include a whole range of organizations looking to secure buildings or large events.

LiveSafe offers both a mobile app and a “command and communications” dashboard, in order to help businesses and universities alike collect information from employees or students about potential problems in the workplace. The company aims to protect the privacy of these reports, which can run the gamut from instances of sexual harassment to threats of violence from a coworker.

“Twenty-first century corporate leadership must treat safety, security, and incident prevention as a business priority,” Carolyn Parent, LiveSafe CEO, wrote in a statement. “The majority of costly, small- and large-scale risks that threaten organizations are known by some employees. It is critical that organizational leaders tap into their greatest sources of incident prevention intelligence — their people. Our mission is to enable companies to surface these risks via crowd-sourced intelligence to prevent any harm from occurring.”

LiveSafe says it now boasts more than 300 customers across the country, up from around 50 just three years ago. Those clients include major firms like Hearst and Cox Communications, and even sports teams like the San Francisco 49ers.

The Crystal City-based Consumer Technology Association, a lobbying group for some of the nation’s largest tech firms, has also started working with LiveSafe to collect data ahead of its massive “CES” conference in Las Vegas.

“We use several strategies to focus on attendee safety and our relationship with LiveSafe provides an important additional layer to our security operation,” CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro wrote in a statement. “The LiveSafe technology seamlessly connects our security professionals directly with the event’s hosts, guests, and vendors, enabling open and anonymous communication about potential incidents and concerns. This helps our safety and security experts to act preemptively, discovering incidents before they can develop into crises.”

LiveSafe got started in a co-working space for startups, but moved to an office on the ground floor of 1400 Key Blvd in 2013, where it remains based today.

The company says this latest round of funding was part of a “Series B-1 extension,” with roughly half of the new $11 million coming from new investors and the rest coming from firms which had previously chipped in for the company.

Two of LiveSafe’s co-founders, Shayan and Eman Pahlevani, have since founded another startup in Clarendon: Hungry.

Photo via LiveSafe

0 Comments

Cybersecurity Company Opens Ballston Office to Harness Military Talent

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Cybersecurity is an ongoing and growing concern in the corporate sector, but IT security company Praetorian seeks to help test corporate security networks and make the internet a safer place to do business.

Praetorian started in Austin, Texas in 2010, but recently opened their office inside Techspace in Ballston this summer. Matthew Eble, Practice Director at Praetorian’s Arlington branch, said the move to Arlington was prompted by the local talent base — namely, the large number of active duty military and veterans in and around Arlington.

“We find that people who are most successful in what we do are disproportionately former military,” said Eble. “We wanted to focus on where the expertise is.”

In addition to Arlington, Eble said there are plans to expand elsewhere on the East Coast as the company grows, though the Ballston office is likely to remain the biggest of the satellite locations.

“There’s a massive supply and demand mismatch in cybersecurity,” said Eble “There is a lot of need for cyber security expertise.”

Praetorian sets itself apart by focusing on the attacker perspective, Eble said — instead of providing a general defensive structure, Praetorian probes system networks to find vulnerabilities.

“There are people that defend a network, that’s risk management, but there’s a lot of need for understanding what the attackers [look for],” said Eble. “We help clients solve those security problems.”

Eble said companies start with a network penetration test to find the holes in a security system that attackers could exploit. These vulnerabilities can range from hardware to software-related issues.

Beyond network testing, Praetorian works with clients to develop a roadmap for greater security coverage to help organizations prevent, detect, and respond to security threats.

There are six employees at the Arlington location but around 50 overall in the company. That includes 30 engineers, who work directly with clients, according to Eble.

0 Comments

Ballston-Based Coffee Bar Eyes Expansion Throughout D.C. Region

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations. 

(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Republik Coffee Bar was founded out of frustration.

Elan Irving, director of operations for Republik Coffee Bar, said when the founders of the coffee bar were looking a premium coffee options in the area, they were underwhelmed.

“We were looking for a place to enjoy premium coffee served in an inviting environment staffed by friendly baristas with a pleasant ambiance,” said Irving. “Surprisingly, there are very few places that embody all of these qualities, so we decided to provide such space for like minded coffee lovers.”

Irving said the largest challenge that faced the burgeoning company initially was finding a price balance.

“One of the challenges is to keep prices low without sacrificing on the quality of the product as well as keeping a staff of highly qualified baristas,” said Irving. “We were always in pursuit of better coffee, better brewing methods, and very competitive prices. We don’t believe in charging $5 for a six-ounce cappuccino.”

Since launching, Republik Coffee Bar has started an aggressive expansion campaign. Less than one year since its Ballston location opened, Republik has started a second franchise coffee bar in McLean. In six months, Republik plans to open two more locations inside D.C. and eventually another in Fairfax.

“If you are afraid of taking calculated risks, you shouldn’t be in business of investing in new businesses,” said Irving. “This is also true in our business. We are very confident in our concept and very happy to see the response we received in Ballston. This has encouraged us to expand into other locations.”

For now, Republik Coffee Bar is local, but the chain has much larger ambitions if the continued regional launches go well.

“Our short term goals are establish our brand into a very respectable local brand in the D.C. metro area,” Irving said. “If we are successful in achieving this, we will continue to expand regionally and then one day, nationally.”

0 Comments

Maywood-Based Geocodio Aims to Provide Simplified, Useful Geocoding Services

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Before virtually every business’s opening and closing times became available via search engine, Michele and Mathias Hansen developed an app to help people find grocery store and coffee shop hours near them.

In order for nearly 5,000 stores to be displayed in that app, which launched in 2013, they needed to convert addresses to latitude and longitude coordinates.

“Whenever you see a map online… the addresses are always converted to latitude and longitude first,” Michele Hansen said. “A computer doesn’t really understand an address, but it understands coordinates.”

The services available to perform that conversion had several shortcomings, and the married couple knew there had to be a better way. So, they came up with it.

Geocodio, which launched in Jan. 2014, makes that address to coordinate conversion and goes beyond it, offering services like data appends that enable users to get congressional district and timezone information with their lookups.

“What we focus on is trying to make things as easy as possible,” Michele Hansen said. “No one sits around and collects latitude and longitude coordinates for the fun of it.”

With other services, if you needed to convert more than 2,500 addresses a day, you had to upgrade from free use to a $20,000 per year enterprise license, Michele Hansen recalls.

Looking up 5,000 addresses, the number the Hansens had needed for their app, costs $2 on Geocodio without add-ons.

And with other services, “you weren’t allowed to store that crucial information in your database so that you could show the map later,” Michele Hansen said. “Conversely, with our services, you can just get it once… and then you can store the database and never need it from us again.”

Geocodio’s clients “run the gamut,” and include academics studying elections, insurance companies looking to understand the risk of insuring a property and “the website that our daughter’s swim team uses to coordinate scheduling,” Michele Hansen said.

“We have 18,000 companies using the service, or thereabouts,” she added.

Geocodio works as a “foundational building block where we [are] sitting behind a curtain and providing the data that other apps need to shine, essentially,” Mathias Hansen said. “It’s crazy how many different use cases there are.”

In one innovative application of their service, the Hansens created a map based on addresses individuals stranded during Hurricane Harvey posted to Twitter.

After they stayed up until 2 a.m. building the map, “I sent out an email to anyone on our customer list who had either a Red Cross email or had something to do with Texas,” Michele Hansen said.

Though “we can’t say for sure whether we helped anyone get rescued,” she said, “we did have a couple of organizations reach out to us asking to use it.”

Michele Hansen has worked on the company full-time since last fall, while Mathias works on it part-time. Geocodio has been funded via bootstrapping so far.

“We’re not opposed to [investment], it’s just that we have never needed it,” Michele Hansen said.

Going forward, Michele and Mathias Hansen plan to continue to listen to their customers and work to improve their service.

“From the beginning, we set out to solve those frustrations that we have, and so it’s very important to us to be affordable and easy to work with,” Michele Hansen said, “And not just stand over our customer’s shoulders and nitpick them about how they’re using our service and the data they’re getting back from it.”

Photos courtesy Michele Hansen

0 Comments

Rosslyn-Based Vemo Education Aims to Improve Tuition Financing

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

As student debt continues to mount, Vemo Education is working to build a different way for students to finance some of their tuition bill.

“We consider ourselves a progressive, mission-driven company that’s really trying to expand opportunity and mobility and financial security for students and learners in this country,” Vice President of Policy and Social Impact Andrew Platt said. “We think income-based financing programs [are] going to help do that.”

Income-based student financing programs, also known as income-sharing agreements or “pay as you succeed tuition,” require students to pay back a certain percentage of their income after graduation for a set number of years in exchange for some amount of tuition financing.

“What we do is help universities, colleges and training [programs] build income-based financing programs to eliminate financial barriers for education access, retention and completion,” Platt said.

Vemo Education, which was founded in 2015 and moved to Rosslyn just last month, has worked with over 30 schools to date to build such programs.

Accepting income-based financing as part of an aid package can be preferable to taking out more loans because it reduces the student’s risk, Platt said.

“What’s at the core of this is that it shifts the risk away form students and more towards the school,” he said.

Options to garner financing for these programs for schools include using endowments and working with investors or gathering alumni donations.

When Vemo Education works to develop income-based financing options, they look to build in three “very student friendly” features, Platt said: a minimum income threshold, a maximum number of payments and a payment cap.

“Those are inherently progressive features of an income share agreement that are good for a student in a way that other financing options aren’t,” Platt said.

Vemo Education is a venture-backed company that has raised around $9.4 million, Platt said. Holding at 39 employees as of mid-August, Platt said they’re looking to grow.

Vemo Education has worked with institutions such as Indiana’s Purdue University and New York’s Clarkson University to establish income-based financing programs, and Platt expects their clientele to increase in the near future.

“We think over the next couple of years, we’ll help more and more schools, particularly large schools, understand and implement and launch large income-based financing programs for efforts of increasing educational opportunity and mobility,” Platt said. “I think over the next year you’ll see some pretty big announcements in terms of who’s doing [it].”

Photos via Twitter

0 Comments

Crystal City-Based PayKii Reduces Barriers for International Payments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated Aug. 23 at 8:40 a.m.) For people living in countries where many banks have yet to set up shop, even the simple task of paying the bills can require waiting in long lines.

Compounding this problem, family members living abroad, in places such as the United States, can face difficulties sending payments home. And when payments do get sent, there is often “no ability to see where it’s being spent… or peace of mind to make sure the basic services are being paid,” Nelson Irizarry said.

Enter PayKii. Founded in 2015 by Irizarry, Fabian Saide and Daniel Barragan, PayKii processes cross-border bill payments to allow “individuals living outside their home countries to directly pay expenses” for family back home, said Irizarry, who serves as the company’s chief operating officer.

To make this possible, PayKii builds relationships with money transfer operators like Xoom along with local “bill payment aggregators,” which can include technology companies and banks, Irizarry said.

“On one end, our clients are primarily the money transfer operators, and then on the other end we have… a local partner, and they’re the ones that are connected with all the utility companies,” Irizarry said.

PayKii’s transfers are “primarily what we call from rich countries to poor countries,” Irizarry said. “U.S. outbound is one market that we’re very active in.”

Since its founding, PayKii’s staff has grown from three to twelve members, divided between headquarters in Arlington and Monterrey, Mexico.

Just last month, PayKii closed a “Seed Series” investment round worth $1.5 million, Irizarry said. Through that round, they brought on Alta Ventures and Assembly Capital Partners as investors, he said.

In all, PayKii processes over 100,000 transactions per month in 13 markets. By the end of the year, the company hopes to establish a presence in “upward of 24 markets,” Irizarry said.

“Our primary focus is building a platform and building relationships,” he said.

Photos via Facebook

0 Comments

Crystal City-Based FarmRaiser Looks to Build Better Fundraisers

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

When schools, booster clubs, scout troops or any number of other organizations need support, they often turn to their communities with a product for sale.

But when Mark Abbott’s kids had to fundraise with products  “that were expensive and not healthy,” it “just did not seem like a 21st century solution to the problem of under-resourced schools,” Abbott said.

So, Abbott founded FarmRaiser, an online platform “with a goal of creating healthy fundraisers that also helped local farmers and food artisans,” that launched in May 2015, Abbott said.

FarmRaiser, which moved to Crystal City in 2017, connects organizations looking to fundraise with local suppliers of goods like fresh produce, dark chocolate and granola.

Typically, the cause and suppliers share sales revenue in about a 50/50 split, with a small amount going to FarmRaiser, Abbott said.

FarmRaiser also works with “food aggregators” like The Common Market to “get product to all of our schools” from the local sellers, Abbott said.

The model FarmRaiser uses looks to benefit all parties involved — in school fundraisers, for instance, students can learn about the benefits of eating healthy, local food, Abbott said. For community members purchasing FarmRaiser goods, “you know that a good portion of your check went to the cause,” he said. And suppliers on the FarmRaiser platform can support good causes in a way that benefits them “as well as the cause,” Abbott said.

“At the very end of the campaign… the supplier gets a check for the amount of goods that were ordered and they get email contacts for all of the folks who have bought that product,” Abbott said.

In 2017, over $600,000 worth of merchandise was sold through the FarmRaiser platform, Abbott said. This year, they expect that number to increase between three- and four-fold.

“A good portion of that growth [is] coming from other types of companies that are doing fundraising now,” Abbott said, like garden seed companies or cut flower stores.

Those companies adopt FarmRaiser’s system, which “is pretty much automated from A to Z,” Abbott said.

FarmRaiser is a “venture-backed company,” Abbott said. They’ve done two full rounds of funding, through which they raised “just over a million dollars,” supporting two versions of the platform, Abbott said. They’re also closing a seed series round that includes funding from angel investors and Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology.

“The goal is to grow big enough that we can do maybe an institutional round of funding before we’re self-sufficient,” Abbott said.

In measuring the success of the company, “of course, common metrics for us are the amount of merchandise that’s sold on the platform, but we also think about… the amount of kind of sugar and preservatives that we divert from family households,” Abbott said. Whenever someone sells a healthier product, “we consider that a win.”

Photos via Facebook

0 Comments

Crystal City-Based Fifth Tribe Works to Craft Innovative Digital Approaches

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

In its fifth stage, a tribe can “achieve things that are inconceivable,” according to “Tribal Leadership,” a book that describes levels of company culture.

Digital agency Fifth Tribe seeks to exist at that level as it works to help organizations use technology to better engage with users.

Founded in 2012 and based in the 1776 incubator space, Fifth Tribe works in product innovation, branding and design, web and mobile development and digital marketing.

Among the approximately 50 clients Fifth Tribe has worked with since its founding are AARP and the Vatican. The former was looking for help reaching more low-income seniors.

“They basically hired us to come up with ways they can leverage technology to accomplish that goal,” said Adam Motiwala, a partner at Fifth Tribe.

When the Vatican was working to create a fund for startups to combat climate change last year, Fifth Tribe helped with branding, web development and getting people to sign up online, Motiwala said.

“The primary use of the project that we built for them was to help them tell their story and to help companies join and basically apply for the program when they launched the site,” he said.

As digital advertising overtakes traditional formats, like TV and radio, Fifth Tribe is also investing in new, innovative approaches to reaching online consumers, like gaming.

Typical forms of web advertising, like display and video ads, are “really intrusive, and people hate them,” Fifth Tribe CEO Khuram Zaman said.

In contrast, games represent “something that’s more experiential,” Fifth Tribe CTO Asif Khan said. And they have their “own inherent enjoyment,” he added. “It happens to be sponsored by this brand, but it’s enjoyable in and of itself.”

Fifth Tribe is currently working on games with four e-commerce clients — some of the games they’ve launched so far can be viewed here.

“It’s to create a way for people to really have these positive memories around these brands rather than having another banner ad that you’ve seen a billion of,” Khan said.

Fifth Tribe sees engaging in activities outside the office, like bike rides, escape rooms or laster tag, as complimenting the company’s interests rather than competing with them, Zaman said.

Though “a lot of the breakthrough moments happen in the office,” many also happen out of the office, Zaman said. “Small teams can do great things if they’re put in the right sort of conditions.”

The members of Fifth Tribe’s team “want to have a work-life balance and they also want to have the ability to do things that have an impact,” Zaman said. “As a result, we attract clients who are seeking to have an impact.”

The startup also pursues projects with an impact through typically staff-only hackathons.

“A lot of our hackathons are oriented toward not really business problems but macro-level… social problems,” Zaman said. Hackathon products have included a platform to connect refugees seeking help with tasks like translation with volunteers, and a mechanism to track pro- and anti-ISIS Twitter users.

Fifth Tribe is currently financed via bootstrapping, something that Khan said has helped sustain its culture.

“We’ve bootstrapped in part because once you have investors, it changes how you work the company,” Khan said. “In the founding of the company, the culture was very important… the reason we’ve been able to maintain that is because we haven’t tried to get outside financing.”

Ultimately, “our goal is to build a company that we’re proud of,” Zaman said. “We love our clients [and] we try to do the best work that we can.”

Photos via Facebook

0 Comments

Crystal City-Based Sekoyia Strives to Make Sustainability More Accessible

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations. 

For Sekoyia founder and CEO Gareth Lewis, adopting a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle requires making a shift — much like establishing a gym regimen or trying a new diet.

But when Lewis got involved in promoting sustainability, he found that it can be “daunting and overwhelming… and there’s no easy way for someone to start making an impact,” he said.

Sekoyia, which is based in Crystal City, represents a tool for easing that transition.

“It’s our mission to empower individuals to make a positive and measurable environmental impact… by incrementally shifting their lifestyle,” Lewis said.

The “primary product” Sekoyia offers is a series of subscription boxes that enable users to “switch out some of the older things in our lifestyle with more sustainable options,” Lewis said.

The boxes are built into a six-month sequence with each focused on a theme, like energy, water or waste.

In addition to providing more sustainable versions of products like dish soap and resealable bags, boxes include “actions and challenges” that align with that month’s theme.

They also come with “impact tracking,” so users can see their individual impact along with “the whole collective impact of the Sekoyia community,” Lewis said.

The water box, for instance, lets each user save four kiddie pools-worth of water, $50 over a year, 41 pounds of waste and five-days-worth of cow farts (which emit methane).

A mechanical engineer by trade, Lewis began working on Sekoyia part time out of 1776 incubator space last year. In June, he transitioned to Sekoyia full time.

“My concern for climate change got to the point where I really had to do this full time,” Lewis said.

So far, Lewis has bootstrapped Sekoyia, meaning he’s personally funded the startup. Their team currently consists of Lewis, a CMO and two interns.

Lewis has applied for a WeWork Creator Award, which would give him the funding to pursue the “aggressive” goal of hitting 50,000 subscribers within a year, he said.

The subscription boxes are “the starting point” for Sekoyia, Lewis said.

“Ideally there would be some political action as well, and I think education is a huge part of that,” he said. Future initiatives could also include cleanup efforts and work to connect businesses with local sustainable services, like composting.

“I think that’s really the way that this has to go in the future if this is going to be successful,” Lewis said.

Photos via Facebook

0 Comments

Rosslyn-Based HUNGRY Looks to Continue Expansion

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A catering startup with an appetite for growth is looking to establish a presence well beyond the D.C. metro area.

HUNGRY, launched in late 2016, plans to have its platform available in Philadelphia later this quarter, and has big plans for the future.

“I think it’s really a testament to… the success that we’re seeing here in Washington,” company chairman Jeff Grass said. “We’ve already tripled sales since the beginning of the year, and we expect to continue to see… growth in the second half of the year.”

Based in Rosslyn, HUNGRY has raised $4.5 million in seed funding since its founding. Later this year, they’ll aim to raise between roughly $7 and $10 million in “Series A” financing, according to Grass.

That funding “would really give us the resources to take what we’ve demonstrated to be successful here and sort of roll it out everywhere,” Grass said.

HUNGRY works with local chefs — around 50 in the D.C. area — to provide high-quality office catering options “at a Panera price point,” Grass said.

The company’s roster of chefs includes Chopped champions, former White House chefs and the former personal chef to Pitbull. Their “at least” two to three hundred clients include “tons” in Arlington and companies like Amazon and Microsoft, Grass said.

“We created this really first ever platform that [connects] offices with top local chefs and we do it in this way that makes it really reliable and really efficient,” Grass said.

The desire for higher quality office catering “is not a D.C. specific phenomenon,” Grass said. “We see opportunity across the country, if not the world.”

HUNGRY also aims to give back to the communities in which they operate by working to fight hunger. For every two meals ordered, HUNGRY donates a meal to a partner like the Arlington Food Assistance Center, Grass said.

And “the cutlery and plates and napkins and things that come with HUNGRY catering are all made of corn, so they’re fully compostable and biodegradable,” Grass said.

Grass sees HUNGRY as different from competitors like ezCater, which recently raised $100 million in venture financing, for several reasons.

“At the core, we are the only ones working directly with top [local] chefs,” Grass said. “You’ve got all these really interesting chefs with different backgrounds. That is fundamentally different than anything the competition can provide.”

Ultimately, “we think we’ve got a really elegant model that does it in a way that really benefits everybody that we touch,” Grass said.

Photos via Facebook

0 Comments

Crystal City-Based Eminent IT Aims to Revamp Aging Technology

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Government agencies rely on technology for daily operations and to plan for the future, just like any business these days. But the applications they use can be so outdated that they’re no longer effective, and leave agencies vulnerable to cyber threats.

“Every organization has the equivalent of their own app store, but they don’t update those apps,” Isaac Barnes said. “Imagine having a phone where all your apps are still from 2007 or 2008.”

Barnes is the chief technology officer and vice president of Eminent IT, a software and services firm with clients in the Department of Defense, the intelligence community and elsewhere in the executive branch.

“The primary focus is on IT modernization and transformation,” Barnes said. “And that’s a very big way of saying we help organizations fix their aging technology.”

Keeping old systems in place is like “if you have a lock on the door at your house and it’s been proven that lock has been picked many different times and… you’re still leaving that lock,” Barnes said.

Because they can offer clients “initial building blocks,” Eminent IT is able to modernize systems in much less time than without their platform, Barnes said.

“If you’re building a blog, you can use WordPress,” Barnes said “We built… a WordPress-like framework.”

The company also works with technology partners in fields like blockchain to “help bring emerging technologies to these agencies,” Barnes said. And a product entitled Revamp acts as “a foundation for us to build applications quicker for our customers,” Barnes said.

Eminent IT was founded in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they started working to scale up their operations, Barnes said. The company is entirely owned by Barnes and José Risi, both Marine Corps veterans.

“José and I the same day decided to start businesses and the plan was [whenever] we get the first contract, we’re just going to merge those companies into one company,” Barnes said. That merger happened around 2011.

With a team of about 24 people, mostly millennials, the company is focused on continuing to grow.

“Most of the federal workforce is focused on improving their technology and they’re looking to our generation to help them do that, and that’s what we’ve honed in on,” Barnes said.

Coming off a recent contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — “one of the strategic organizations for us, because they’re at the heart of a lot of new technology that’s coming out,” Barnes said — they’re looking to become a large business.

“From a size perspective… we want to be a large business, that’s the focus,” Barnes said. “From an impact perspective, I want us to be known as the modernization experts.”

Photos via Facebook

0 Comments

Crystal City-Based Startup Streamlines Smart Building Management

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 12:30 p.m.) Within one building at any given time, a soap dispenser might be running low, a toilet could be nearing overflow or power might be wasted.

Smart technologies enable building managers to monitor all of this and more — but that information isn’t always easy to manage.

Service Robotics & Technologies is a local startup looking to make it easier to use those devices and the data they collect.

“What we’re developing is a lightweight, map-based smart building management software,” CEO and founder Greg Scott said.

That software can bring together and analyze data from devices like soap dispensers, air quality sensors and floor cleaning robots to provide “actionable information to a building manager on a fully customizable dashboard,” Scott said.

With Scott’s background in robotics — his PhD work focused on space robotics — SRT first looked into deploying robots to perform services like vacuuming and delivery. They found, however, that “the biggest unmet need was actually not in the robotics sector,” but instead in the “industry of building management,” Scott said.

Without SRT, a building manager who wants to use five different sensors might need to acquire and learn five separate software packages in order to track the data collected by each device.

By working with SRT, which has developed partnerships with “a number of hardware companies that have specialty products,” clients can have devices installed and receive training to manage them through one piece of software, Scott said.

“We’re able to come in and consult with clients who… haven’t yet jumped onto the smart building bandwagon and can provide a variety of options for them,” Scott said. “And even those companies… who already [have] some smart building technologies” can make use of SRT’s services, he added.

Scott began working on SRT full-time about two years ago, when he left his job at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Though still in beta mode, SRT is “actively moving toward… formal commercialization,” Scott said.

Grants from the National Science Foundation and the Center for Innovative Technology have made up the bulk of the support for SRT’s development thus far, Scott said, though there has been some outside investment and the company is “always looking for good investment partners.”

None of the startup’s current beta clients are located in Arlington, but Scott said he “can see a lot of benefits of how our product can work in the Arlington area,” particularly in places like Rosslyn and Crystal City with larger buildings.

“Being able to provide that actionable information is able to streamline staff time, which is going to be really helpful for the operational type staff in the large building tier,” Scott said.

Photos courtesy Greg Scott

0 Comments

Arlington-Based Whystle Sounds Product Safety Alarms Through Mobile App

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

News about high-profile product recalls seems nearly impossible to avoid — IKEA dressers in 2017, for example, or E. coli contaminated romaine lettuce earlier this year.

But in these cases and others, safety information can take too long to reach consumers, or perhaps never reach them at all. A new app aims to change that.

Whystle, which launched in late May, provides personalized safety information in a user-friendly format.

“I really have the busy parent in mind,” said Lauren Bell, Whystle’s CEO and a busy parent to four children herself. The “My Alerts” portion of the app, which collects information according to user preferences, is organized to mimic an “actionable to-do list,” Bell added.

Bell previously worked as an attorney at the Department of Justice, where she prosecuted companies whose actions threatened public safety. In that role, Bell saw that even as government agencies tried to publicize safety information, “people were still getting hurt.”

“It’s like this information wasn’t reaching them,” she said.

And while working at a law firm, Bell noted that “even the companies want people to know about this information.”

“That’s when it really crystallized for me,” she said.

Bell left her job in September to work on Whystle full time, and runs the company out of her Arlington home and the 1776 incubator space. She collaborated with Nick Jones, CEO of Richmond-based app development company NS804, on the technical side of the project, and works with a nurse practitioner to break down medical literature and Food and Drug Administration medical alerts.

“I really put a lot of time [into] thinking through each recall that I cover, [and] there’s always a ‘what to do’ at the end so people can feel some control,” Bell said.

For now, Whystle is available for free, and Bell said they plan to see how much they can grow before working out monetization.

“It’s not that expensive to run, so for now we’re hoping to just be as useful as we can to users [and] grow our user base,” Bell said, adding that, if necessary, “we can find a home somewhere within an existing parenting app or another service.”

Early updates to the app will enable users to share alerts on social media. Eventually, Bell envisions a platform to which users can import their purchases, enabling them to receive recall notifications automatically.

Bell said she decided she wanted to work in public health in college, after her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and she sees Whystle as a natural extension of that dream.

“My mom used to always cut out articles in the newspaper and send them to us,” Bell said. “That’s outdated, but that’s sort of what [this] is — that there’s someone looking out for you.”

Photos via Facebook

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list